TESS VIGELAND, HOST:
Thanks for listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Tess Vigeland, here at NPR West. The Little League World Series began on Thursday in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Last night, a team from Philadelphia representing the mid-Atlantic region of the championships for the very first time faced off against a team from Nashville, Tennessee, that's been there before. On the mound for Philadelphia's Taney Dragons - 13-year-old Mo'ne Davis - one of just two girls playing in this year's Little League World Series. And girlfriend made history. WHYY's Emma Jacobs was at the game.
EMMA JACOBS, BYLINE: Mo'ne Davis stood on the mound as a light faded over a Little League stadium that seats 40,000 fans, mostly full for this game. And at the bottom of the sixth inning - that's all they play in Little League - the moment was all hers. She struck out the first batter, then the second. Davis throws a 70 mile-an-hour fastball in championships where most of the boys pitch in the high 50s and low 60s.
(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CHEERING)
JACOBS: In the family cheering section behind third base, everyone was on their feet. The third player from Tennessee gets up to a full count. One more ball and she'll walk him, one more strike and the game is over. He swings at the pitch, and he misses. Davis had just thrown a shutout - the first girl ever to do so in the Little League postseason. She'd given up two hits and struck out eight batters. Her team mobbed her on the third base line. They're whisked off to talk to ESPN as the coach of the losing team, Chris Mercado, complemented her playing.
CHRIS MERCADO: She mixed it up. And that's a good pitcher. And that's what you do.
JACOBS: Davis' step-dad, Mark Williams, seemed overcome with pride.
MARK WILLIAMS: I can't even talk right now. I don't know what to say. She was tremendous, and her teammates were the best. They got together and threw this thing together.
JACOBS: Even the governor of Pennsylvania weighed in, suggesting Davis might make the big leagues someday. At the team's press conference, she responded with what's become her trademark cool.
(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)
MO'NE DAVIS: (Laughter) It's very crazy. I didn't even expect that. So if I do stay into baseball, hopefully I can pitch - be a professional pitcher.
JACOBS: She revealed her lucky charm to reporters - a little bit of money she keeps in her pocket when she pitches.
(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)
DAVIS: It's just that I do well when I have money in my back pocket. And if I ever get hungry, I know I can get something to eat because I got money.
JACOBS: This young star has risen pretty quickly, both for her talent and her novelty here as a girl. When I asked someone handling PR for the team for an interview earlier this week, he told me so had late-night host Jimmy Fallon and a dozen others. With her long braids fanning out around her when she pitches, she's captivated little girls in the stands. Her step-dad says she started playing at age six, but got serious about pitching a couple of years ago.
WILLIAMS: She says that she was pitching one day and somebody hit a home run off her. So she felt like she needed to work on it more. And from there it went - it got to this point. So she worked pretty hard on it.
JACOBS: Well, she's certainly the star. The diverse team, pulled together from neighborhoods across Philadelphia, has earned respect as the constant underdogs.
KEITH HENDRICKS: Among the parents, we've been saying tough and gritty those kids from the city.
JACOBS: Keith Hendricks, whose son Jahli plays second base, says this team doesn't have the resources of top suburban clubs. They practiced this winter in an empty hangar near the airport. But he says they have something else.
HENDRICKS: Their heart and determination and how they don't quit.
JACOBS: On Sunday night, they'll face a team from Pearland, Texas. This time, the pressure will be on Davis' teammate Jared Sprague-Lott. He's been named the starting pitcher and is understandably a little bit nervous after Davis' shutout game. For NPR News, I'm Emma Jacobs in Philadelphia.
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